Liz Truss says vulnerable could die if teachers jump vaccine queue

Cabinet minister Liz Truss says vulnerable people could die if teachers jump the vaccine queue – as Labour says school staff CAN be covered over half-term by wasting fewer jabs

  • Truss suggested  plan would leave other vulnerable groups at risk by jab delay
  • Sir Keir Starmer insisted that teachers could receive vaccines within weeks
  • He wants to cut waste in vaccine rollout to free up capacity for school staff 

A senior minister suggested Labour’s plan to move teachers up the Covid vaccine priority list could increase deaths today.

International Development Secretary Liz Truss has suggested a plan championed by Labour to inoculate school staff at half-term would leave other vulnerable groups at risk as they are bumped down.

It came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today insisted that teachers could receive vaccines within weeks. 

But he argued that it could be done without any other group missing out by reducing the number of doses being wasted.      

There have been calls for teachers to be vaccinated before schools return, but after those in the four most vulnerable groups have received jabs, which is anticipated by mid-February.

Boris Johnson pushed back the opening of schools in England last week until March 8 at the earliest. 

Asked if teachers should be moved up the priority list, Ms truss told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘The issue is that for every person you vaccinate who isn’t in the most vulnerable group, that’s somebody in the most vulnerable group who isn’t getting their vaccine and who is more likely to die in the next few weeks and months.

‘I just don’t think that’s right. That’s the decision made by the independent committee that we are going to vaccinate first the over-70s and those in the most vulnerable group, and then the over 50s.’

International Development Secretary Liz Truss has suggested a plan championed by Labour to inoculate school staff at half-term would leave other vulnerable groups at risk as they are bumped down

There have been calls for teachers to be vaccinated before schools return, but after those in the four most vulnerable groups have received jabs, which is anticipated by mid-February

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves today suggested frontline workers should get greater priority for vaccination because they are more at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday today, Sir Keir took on the argument that vaccinating teachers means someone else misses out. 

With the extra capacity and new vaccines on the way, we can then use the half-term window to immunise our teachers and school staff, alongside the existing rollout plan,’ he wrote.

This is not about de-prioritising existing groups. That is not what I am calling for. It is about having the ambition to do both.

‘I’ve met the staff at the vaccine centres and I know they are up for this challenge. We can capture that spirit by going further, faster and smarter too.

‘For example, we should be looking at how we can use our supply more efficiently. It’s estimated that five per cent of vaccines are wasted. That could mean more than 120,000 a week based on recent numbers – or the equivalent of more than 10 per cent of school staff in England.

‘This is a practical, constructive, sensible proposal. It has the support of all four Children’s Commissioners in the UK, the Conservative chairman of the Commons education committee, teachers, the public and even Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said it is worthy of exploring.’

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves today suggested frontline workers should get greater priority for vaccination because they are more at risk of contracting coronavirus.

She told Ridge: ‘We know that some people, because of the work they do, are more exposed to the virus.

‘If you are lucky enough to be able to work from home, you’ve got a car when you do need to get out, then you are less at risk to being exposed to the virus than if, say, for example, you are a bus driver, or a taxi-driver, or you work in a supermarket or you work on the front line in the police.

‘If you work in those jobs you are more exposed to the virus, so what Labour are saying is can the JCVI, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations, look at how we can ensure that those people who are most exposed to the virus can get access to it at a bit of an earlier stage. I think that is the right thing to do.’

SIR KEIR STARMER: Let’s harness the spirit that has made us the envy of the world – to get EVERY child back to school

This pandemic, with the endless round of lockdowns that go with it, has been devastating for our country. It has taken the lives of more than 100,000 people. 

It has done unimaginable damage to our economy, with businesses forced to close and billions of pounds of public debt being racked up every week.

And it has forced the Government to shut our schools for millions of children for weeks on end.

Our teachers and school staff have done an extraordinary job keeping schools open as long as possible and adapting to new ways of learning. 

Even when schools were open, learning was constantly disrupted. Children were in school one week, out of school the next, then learning from home again. That is no way to learn, writes Sir Keir Starmer (pictured)

They know more than most the damage that is being done every day that millions of pupils are out of the classroom.

Parents are frustrated and worried. Children are suffering. Across the country, parents are doing their best but there is no substitute for face-to-face learning.

A good education is what makes us a good society. It is the springboard to getting a good job, the chance to go to university or take on an apprenticeship. It allows our businesses to hire the best talent so we can compete on the global stage. 

It helps children to develop and grow, to build relationships with others and become well-rounded individuals and citizens of our country.

Those skills simply cannot be learnt from staring at a screen for hours on end or, despite their best efforts, delivered by parents who are having to juggle home schooling with working from home.

Even when schools were open, learning was constantly disrupted. Children were in school one week, out of school the next, then learning from home again. That is no way to learn.

I fear we’re going to see that disruption again in March if we don’t take decisive action now.

Parents are frustrated and worried. Children are suffering. Across the country, parents are doing their best but there is no substitute for face-to-face learning

I share the Government’s ambition to make it a national mission to reopen our schools. I will do everything in my power as leader of the Labour Party to make that happen.

I have offered to work with the Prime Minister on this, including calling for the opening of ‘Nightingale-style classrooms’, and I renew that commitment today.

I believe we can take a further step towards reopening our schools by getting our teachers and school staff vaccinated as soon as possible, as The Mail on Sunday has called for.

Rollout of the vaccine has been a national success story. Our NHS, the pharmaceutical companies, scientists and volunteers have already given hope to millions of people. 

The news last week that more vaccines could be on the way is a further boost to getting Britain vaccinated.

We were the first in the world to get the vaccine and I believe we can be the first in the world to get our country vaccinated.

It is right that the most vulnerable are being vaccinated first and we are on course to hit that target by mid-February.

With the extra capacity and new vaccines on the way, we can then use the half-term window to immunise our teachers and school staff, alongside the existing rollout plan.

This is not about de-prioritising existing groups. That is not what I am calling for. It is about having the ambition to do both.

I’ve met the staff at the vaccine centres and I know they are up for this challenge. We can capture that spirit by going further, faster and smarter too.

For example, we should be looking at how we can use our supply more efficiently. It’s estimated that five per cent of vaccines are wasted. That could mean more than 120,000 a week based on recent numbers – or the equivalent of more than ten per cent of school staff in England.

Rollout of the vaccine has been a national success story. Our NHS, the pharmaceutical companies, scientists and volunteers have already given hope to millions of people

This is a practical, constructive, sensible proposal. It has the support of all four Children’s Commissioners in the UK, the Conservative chairman of the Commons education committee, teachers, the public and even Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said it is worthy of exploring.

I was disappointed the idea was dismissed so quickly by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, but I would urge him to reconsider.

We cannot miss this opportunity by making it into a party political issue – or expect the British public to understand why our schools are closed and our borders are still open.

We are only going to get our children back into school, reopen society and secure our economy if we are bold, decisive and working together.

That is our shared goal. Let’s work together to get it done.

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